Coming out of the gate for the second half, the Cougars seemed to be swinging the momentum with a chance to minimize a 17-point deficit.
But it proved short-lived.
Sophomore quarterback David Piland threw an interception that changed the trajectory of the game.
UH’s defense garnered momentum after opening the second half with a stop, forcing the Bobcats to punt.
Piland followed with an 18-yard completion to Kenneth Farrow and a 16-yard pass to Daniel Spencer on consecutive plays. After a two-yard run by Charles Sims that placed UH in the red zone, the Cougars were in position to score points.
Piland attempted a pass down the middle of the end zone to Deontay Greenberry, however the freshman receiver never got his hands on the ball.
The pass was snagged by Texas State defensive back Craig Mager and the Bobcats took over at their own 20 after a touchback.
TXST head coach Dennis Franchione said the turnover was a turning point of the game.
“If it’s not the play of the game, it’s a close second. It came at a point in time where if they score, it changes the entire complexion of the game.”
The play was a microcosm of UH’s night and epitomized Piland’s struggles with command of the offense.
Piland made the right decision but the wrong execution on the play. Greenberry had a step on the defender, if Piland guided the pass further toward the right end of the end zone a completion was possible.
If the pass was arched higher, Greenberry would have a chance to make a play in a jump ball situation. Alas, the pass was thrown too short and Mager had a better shot at the ball than the receiver and he took advantage of opportunity.
Had the pass been completed the score would have been 27-17, a manageable deficit for a team running the air-raid offense — the Cougars have made several such comeback victories in previous seasons.
But Case Keenum, Tyron Carrier and Patrick Edwards are not walking into the locker room again, neither is Kevin Sumlin. So the Cougars have to find new solutions to win football games in the face of adversity.
The defense gave the team a chance to win in the second half; the offense did not follow suit.
Head coach Tony Levine said Piland’s day had nothing to do with nerves.
“David Piland didn’t necessarily have any anxiousness or anxiety that affected his play tonight. I didn’t see that with him. He wasn’t able to get into a rhythm. We weren’t able to convert third downs, and that was essentially what happened offensively.”
Concerning air-raid offense, 38.6 (17-44) percent passing does not win games. It is a system that is predicated on an accurate quarterback who gets his playmakers involved. Piland was not able to do that on Saturday.